USC vs Notre Dame preview

When Irish eyes are smiling, the whole world's smiling too but when Irish eyes are crying... you'll see the Trojans smiling, true. Okay my own version of a classic drinking song from my fader's, fader's homeland but from now on, the only way I'll be singing it. The Golden Domers are going to be singing too, come this Saturday night.

They'll be singing the blues as the Trojans will do the same thing to the Irish this year, as they did last - beat the Holy shenanigans out of ‘em.


Speaking of Holy, Holy's, there's no place else on earth where church and football (not state) stand on such level ground than on the campus of Notre Dame University.  The Irish tap into the holiest of powers from not only Moses, but Jesus himself to help carry their teams of past and present to glory.  It appears from watching the Irish's season this year to date that it might take a near act of God to help deliver a victory against the USC Trojans.  That, or a saw buck or two, tucked into a the rear pocket of just one key official.  Whatever it takes, SC knows the Irish will stop at nothing to rid themselves from the nightmare of last year's clash.


In what turned out to be the game that gave Carson Palmer his Heisman, USC took the Fight out of the Irish.  Palmer shredded the nation's leading defensive secondary to a point that Notre Dame resembled more a collection of paper cut-outs than anything called a football team.


One might think, without Palmer and three fantastic ball carriers, the Trojans would be ripe for a "Rudy's Revenge," kind of a part deux to Notre Dame fans' favorite fantasy film, Rudy.  However, it will be USC, with a script written by Chow and directed by Carroll that will be the weekend's top money maker.  And there couldn't be a bigger venue to open this block buster than in Notre Dame's home and on national television.


As much as the Domers would like to become a team of over achievers, whatever they are able to muster will not be enough to beat their second top 15 team.


Notre Dame returns home after a stunning 20-14 night win at Pittsburgh last Saturday.  The previously inept Irish ground game turned prolific, pounding out 352 rushing yards, led by a school-record 266 from fifth-year senior Julius Jones.  If this victory was preceded by a string of wins just like it, then it would be something to Trojans to notice.  But instead it reveals how truly one-dimensional the Irish really are for 2003.


Head Coach Tyrone Willingham spent all of last year and too long this year trying to force the round peg, Carlyle Holiday, fit into a square hole, the West Coast offense.  Adding to that failed experiment, Willingham asked his quarterback to free lance plays when he "felt the groove."  The groove Holiday finally found, was the knotty pine of Notre Dame's bench.  Brady Quinn, the Tarzan-like freshmen, put under center just two short weeks ago is now being asked by his coach to "lead the team to victory, just avoid any freelancing."  Quinn and Holiday couldn't be two more different quarterbacks.  Holiday rolls out, runs for daylight and throws only when necessary.  Quinn is a meat and potatoes drop back passer who's yet to throw enough passes in college football to say he has an arm.  Because of that, the Irish propped themselves up on the legs of  Julius Jones.  He responded and caught Pitt off guard because up until last weekend Notre Dame hadn't broken one hundred and fifty yards rushing in a game all year.  Now that the cat's out of the bag, it won't be as easy running against SC's defensive line.  Because of that, look for the Irish to go airborne but how Willingham hopes to put together a victory against a far superior SC team will be way beyond his lucky charms.


SC goes into South Bend, 5-1 and on a roll.  The Irish come home after a solid win this last weekend, hoping to build on an identity.  They are opposite ends of the same rainbow.  The pot o' gold, however, stays with the Trojans.  SC will feature the most balanced attack Notre Dame has yet to see on offense.  And with a blitzing SC defense, the Irish' young quaterback will spend more time running for his life than for yards. 

Look for the Trojans to completely shut down the Irish in the red zone and for SC's offense to truly find its stride.  As much as I like Ty, Pete is a better college coach.  Pete brings a burning heart for the game every day to practice, whereas Willingham seems more business than pleasure.   SC's staff also outmatches their counterparts. 


SC goes into one of the toughest places in their history to win.   They need to establish the run and pound Notre Dame through the day but don't think that means the Trojans won't go to their pillars of strength, Keary Colbert and Mike Williams.  Chow will go up top and Notre Dame will struggle to contain such a balanced attack.  ND will hit the middle of SC's defense and try to keep it close, but it will be like stemming a dam.  It won't happen until late but when it does, the flood gates will open wide.  SC wins 34 - 13.


In closing, as I pack my bag for another ND roadtrip, I remember tons of great SC/ND memories - the 55-24 comeback, Jordan's game winning field goal, my first SC/ND split hat bought at Julies in its hey day, watching Jerome Bettis run like no man I've ever seen, Anthony Davis doing his own magic and the phantom touchdown.  But the one that I see in my mind's eye each time I think of Notre Dame - and this will seem odd - but is the Notre Dame band charging the field like soldiers going to war, to launch the start of a home game.  The tilt back and leg kick, then the charge - it is magnificent to see.  Especially when it is followed by the USC marching band - the best in the country.  When other Pac Ten teams say that the pomp and circumstance of the SC show, with Traveller, the band, the song girls... those fans from other schools have no idea how much all this plays into the Notre Dame game.  It is a competiton from start to finish and in every category.  Both schools and their returning alumni take great pride in the spectacle.  If you have never been, going to South Bend, to see these two teams play, is the college football treat of a lifetime.


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